- The news comes shortly after Russia’s Defense Ministry promised to step up missile attacks on Kyiv
- Ukrainian President accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions
- Mariupol’s capture would allow Russian forces in the south
The bodies of more than 900 civilians have been discovered in the region surrounding the Ukrainian capital following Russia’s withdrawal — most of them fatally shot, police said Friday, an indication that many people were “simply executed.” The jarring number emerged shortly after Russia’s Defense Ministry promised to step up missile attacks on Kyiv in response to Ukraine’s alleged assaults on Russian territory. That ominous warning followed the stunning loss of Moscow’s flagship in the Black Sea. Amid its threats, Moscow continued preparations for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine.
Fighting also went on in the pummeled southern port city of Mariupol, where locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies. In the northeastern city of Kharkiv, shelling of a residential area killed seven people, including a 7-month-old child, and wounded 34, according to regional Governor Oleh Sinehubov. Around Kyiv, Andriy Nebytov, the head of the capital’s regional police force, said bodies were abandoned in the streets or given temporary burials.
He cited police data indicating 95% died from gunshot wounds.
“Consequently, we understand that under the (Russian) occupation, people were simply executed in the streets,” Nebytov said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops occupying parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south of terrorizing civilians and hunting for anyone who served in Ukraine’s military or government. “The occupiers think this will make it easier for them to control this territory. But they are very wrong. They are fooling themselves,” Zelenskyy said. “Russia’s problem is that it is not accepted — and never will be accepted — by the entire Ukrainian people. Russia has lost Ukraine forever.”
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy also said he discussed the fate of Mariupol with top military and intelligence officials. He said he couldn’t offer details, “but we are doing everything we can to save our people.” More violence could be in store for Kyiv after Russian authorities accused Ukraine of wounding seven people and damaging about 100 residential buildings with airstrikes in Bryansk, a region bordering Ukraine. Authorities in another border region of Russia also reported Ukrainian shelling Thursday.
“The number and the scale of missile attacks on objects in Kyiv will be ramped up in response to the Kyiv nationalist regime committing any terrorist attacks or diversions on the Russian territory,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. Russia used missiles to destroy a facility for the repair and production of missile systems in Kyiv, Konashenkov said. Ukrainian officials have not confirmed striking targets in Russia, and the reports could not be independently verified. However, Ukrainian officials said forces did strike a key Russian warship with missiles.
“A flagship’ russian warship is a worthy diving site. We have one more diving spot in the Black Sea now. Will definitely visit the wreck after our victory in the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweeted Friday. Russia’s warning of renewed airstrikes did not stop Kyiv residents from taking advantage of a sunny and slightly warmer spring Friday as the weekend approached. More people than usual were out on the streets, walking dogs, riding electric scooters and strolling hand in hand. Such tentative signs of prewar life have resurfaced in the capital after Russian troops failed to capture the city and retreated to concentrate on eastern Ukraine, leaving behind evidence of possible war crimes. But a renewed bombardment could mean a return to the steady wail of air raid sirens heard during the early days of the invasion and to fearful nights sheltering in subway stations.
In Mariupol, the city council said Friday that locals reported seeing Russian troops digging up bodies buried in residential courtyards and not allowing new burials “of people killed by them”. Fighting continued in industrial areas and the port, and Russia for the first time used the Tu-22M3 long-range bomber to attack the city, said Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
Mariupol’s capture would allow Russian forces in the south, which came up through the annexed Crimean Peninsula, to fully link up with troops in the Donbas region, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland and the target of the looming offensive. Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas since 2014, the same year Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine. Russia has recognized the independence of two rebel-held areas of the region. Also Friday, a regional Ukrainian official said seven people were killed and 27 wounded when Russian forces fired on buses carrying civilians in the village of Borovaya, near Kharkiv.
Dmytro Chubenko, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told the Suspilne news website that authorities had opened criminal proceedings in connection with a suspected “violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder.” Russia’s Defense Ministry said strikes in the Kharkiv region had “liquidated a squad of mercenaries from a Polish private military company” of up to 30 people and “liberated” an iron and steel factory in Mariupol. The claims could not be independently verified.